Lots of us feel a bit strapped for cash at the moment. However, for families who are struggling on a low income, feeling the pinch in the New Year can have more serious consequences.
With benefits frozen and prices going up, without urgent action, this is only set to get worse.
When every penny counts, financial support such as Child Benefit can be a lifeline for families living in poverty. Child Benefit provides crucial support with the costs of bringing up children such as buying a new school uniform or a new pair of shoes. It also acts as a cushion to ensure unexpected costs like a broken cooker, or the rising costs of travel, are less of a financial blow. But despite prices rising by as much as a third over the course of the 2010s, Child Benefit has risen by just 2%.
Despite being able to afford the least, low-income families are often forced to pay the most for basic essentials, like heating the house with an expensive pre-payment meter or buying a cooker or washing machine through a high cost rent-to-own company. Families might also end up spending more on food because they can’t access big supermarkets which are often cheaper, and they don’t have the storage, or money, to buy in bulk.
These families are really feeling the pinch. Stretched incomes mean that they are forced to make impossible choices for their children – between healthy meals, warm clothes and heating the home.
Where families can’t make ends meet, this not only damages childhoods, but it also reduces children’s future life chances.
We need to act now to stop the cycle of deprivation. The first steps are for children’s benefits to be unfrozen to reflect the real costs of raising healthy kids, and to end the unfair poverty premium – so that parents can afford the essentials every family needs.